Monday, August 09, 2004

Metro to take off by January?

Metro rail project may take off by January next

By Divya Sreedharan, The Hindu

BANGALORE, AUG. 5. If things go as planned, the Bangalore metro rail project, better known as the Bangalore Mass Rapid Transit Ltd. (BMRTL), will take off by January 2005.

The Managing Director of BMRTL, K.N. Shrivastava, told The Hindu on the sidelines of a two-day conference on sustainable development here on Thursday that he had attended a meeting with officials of the Union Ministry of Urban Development to discuss project financing and other related matters. "The Union Ministry is very positive and has assured us of its whole-hearted support. After Delhi Metro, it will be the Bangalore Metro project," he said.

The phase one of the project, which would cover 33 km and cost Rs. 5,000 crores, would be taken up as soon as possible. "We have proposed equity participation under which the Centre and the State will contribute Rs. 1,000 crores each. The remaining sum will have to be raised through other means." There were three options for that: go to financial institutions both in India and abroad; get it through external borrowings, or issue tax-free bonds, he said.

"We are firming up the three options and I am confident we will get all the clearances and achieve financial closure by September 2004. We will complete the first stretch between Cubbon Park and Byappanahalli in Bangalore at the end of the fourth year and may start phase two before work on phase one ends," he said.

Project extension

Earlier, the Union Minister of State for Planning, M.V. Rajashekharan, stressed that given Bangalore's congested roads and frequent traffic snarls, the Metro Rail had to be extended up to the airport, the Electronic City, and the Information Technology Park Ltd.

This would increase the project cost to at least Rs. 8,000 crores. "To raise the funds, the State Government could partner with the Centre and companies such as Infosys and Wipro, and other industries," the Minister said.

He said the State had asked for 50 per cent support from the Centre for Metro Rail, as had been the case for Delhi Metro. "That might not be possible because Delhi is a special case, being the country's capital. But the Planning Commission — as the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has already announced — will provide Rs. 4,000 crores to the States. Cities such as Bangalore and Hyderabad will get a share of that amount," he added.

When his reaction was sought to the Minister's remarks, Mr. Shrivastava agreed that extending BMRTL was essential. "But that will come under phase two," he added.


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